Interview with Alexi Venneri, Co-Founder and CEO, Digital Air Strike

Alexi Venneri, Co-Founder & CEO, Digital Air Strike

“To keep Digital Air Strike on top of technology and innovation, I employ three qualities: confidence, positivity and curiosity.”

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Tell us about your journey into technology. What made you start Digital Air Strike?

My journey truly began as a child. I always had a strong interest in business and entrepreneurship. I was the kid that loved the TV show “Kids are People Too” that was touted as the kids’ version of the “Tonight Show” featuring interviews with kids that were doing amazing things. I also turned everything into a business. I remember setting up lemonade stands, building my own board games, and convincing adults to pay for the play performances I “produced” and “directed” with my brothers as the actors.

I have always loved technology, from pong games to having one of the first laptops in college to starting Digital Air Strike as a way to build some of the first social media technology solutions focused on improving the business to consumer relationship — long before business pages and social advertising were even a thing.

I founded the company during the recession when social media was just beginning to take off in a big way, but no businesses had really started using it for marketing to other businesses or consumers, and there was no technology to help with this process. I instinctively knew that social media and consumer engagement technology could be leveraged to help businesses maximize their marketing and advertising budgets. To achieve this goal, my team and I looked for ways to develop our own technology, starting with ways to monitor online content and respond, but then create content through the use of online consumer surveys and apps.

How does it feel to be a woman in tech? What guides you to stay on top of your Sales and Marketing goals?

I love working in the tech world. Technology provides limitless possibilities to maximize our client’s success, and it’s always evolving. As a woman, I feel that I can make a difference both as a mentor and an example of what women can accomplish when they are driven and persistent in technology’s male-dominated ecosystem.

To keep Digital Air Strike on top of technology and innovation, I employ three qualities: confidence, positivity and curiosity. Confidence allows me to trust in my decision-making. Positivity pushes me always to find solutions to challenges and create new opportunities while never taking “no” for an answer.

Curiosity helps me stay on top of technology, business, social media and digital engagement trends. With these qualities, our company can successfully stay ahead of the evolving tech landscape and provide the best tools for our clients. Concurrently, we are helping tens of thousands of consumers every day have a better online experience when researching businesses and evaluating products and services.

Why are brands increasingly relying on influencers to amplify their business?

Social media and reputation management are all about building trust with target audiences. One of the most popular ways to do so is by leveraging a trusted voice in the community, often called influencers. These individuals have built a large following that trusts them and act upon their recommendations. Engaging influencers is a great way to become a part of their community and gain a trusting audience.

Another way Digital Air Strike builds “micro-influencers” for our clients is by turning their happy customers into online spokespeople. We engage consumers in online conversations, helping a business be very transparent, and we help to generate new reviews on top review sites. Consumers trust what other consumers say about a business, so others see a positive review as an endorsement of a business.

Google also showcases star ratings and reviews on the first page of search results, so before a consumer even contacts a business, they will see what others say about it. We built proprietary “smart surveys” and texting apps that include integrations with top review sites to allow people who have positive feedback to share it publicly quickly and easily.

Multiple review sites tell us that our technology produces the best quality reviews for their customers. We also have ways to dynamically create custom websites for consumers to view content that is personalized to their inquiries and our AI messaging tool ensures consumers have a great experience which helps turn them into influencers.

How does social media, influencer and reputation management tie into your platform?

Social media and reputation management are the pillars of Digital Air Strike’s products and services. Our mission is to help clients master their social and reputation management channels to optimize sales.

Traditional paid advertising techniques are out of date and don’t yield a beneficial ROI. Through social media — both paid and organic — and reputation building, we can create growth and deliver real ROI for a lower cost than traditional advertising methods. Digital platforms provide the ability to interact directly with target audiences, which can yield far better results and translate to stronger brand trust overall.

We employ many innovative tools to help our clients navigate social media and reputation management. Response Path is our proprietary cloud-based, messaging solution that combines the power of AI with human intelligence to help businesses generate more leads, close sales faster and improve customer service. Response Path automates much of the initial lead nurturing process so that salespeople can focus on in-person buyers. All conversations can be tracked, managed, and analyzed in Response Path’s intuitive team inbox. The platform can hand-off the conversation to human staff members at any time based on specific criteria in the conversation.

Our Social Logix platform monitors and manages more than 325 sites to improve SEO, online reviews and consumer engagement on top social sites including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google. Mission Control is the first platform to aggregate businesses’ survey and review site feedback into a single dashboard.

It provides actionable review and survey feedback data at every level — from a single brick-and-mortar store to a multi-location brand. Mission Control also tracks reviews on top sites and provides average ratings, sentiment and survey analysis, competitor comparisons and more.

We also developed the DAS Mobile app. It’s the first-ever application to be dedicated solely to the social media and reputation management industry. In 2017, we integrated a survey texting feature into the app, Mobile Review Surge. The feature allows businesses to text review requests to satisfied customers in real-time. It has resulted in an astounding 1,100 percent increase in positive reviews for many of Digital Air Strike’s clients.

Another untapped market in the Social Media Marketing world is recruiting. Last year, we created People Logix, the total solution for recruiting and retaining top talent. The platform posts job listings to 100+ career sites, uses Artificial Intelligence to optimize job descriptions, leverages social channels to reach and target top talent, surveys current employees to gain feedback and improves retention while also generating positive employee reviews on career sites like Glassdoor.

What are the challenges to modern-day Reputation Management? How does Digital Air Strike help brands overcome these challenges?

I believe that the biggest reputation management challenge a company faces is understanding how to leverage reputation and use it as a selling point for its brand. According to our recent Social Media Trends Study of 4,000 consumers, 79 percent of consumers say social media and review sites were the most helpful when researching purchases and services. It’s more important than ever before for businesses to monitor their online reviews on social media and Google and leverage the positive reviews to drive sales.

At Digital Air Strike, we overcome reputation management challenges by teaching our clients how to gain more reviews from happy customers, to either push down negative reviews or increase star ratings. One of the ways we do this is through our technology platforms such as Mobile Review Surge, which can send a survey instantly via text to happy customers who’ve just completed a transaction.

We also assist our clients in monitoring review sites and responding to all reviews, both positive and negative. Our recent Social Media Trends Study also showed that 62 percent of millennials appreciate when businesses interact with them personally on social media and were more likely to become loyal customers as a result. Responding to all customer reviews and reaching a solution with a customer with a negative experience can have a drastic impact on the trustworthiness of a brand. Businesses who engage with their customers have an 86 percent higher rating on review sites and social media compared to those that ignore them.

How do you enable customers to deliver on Social ROI?

When we think about ROI, we think about how much money we can save a business and how much they can generate through the use of our technology. Social ROI is that and more. There are multiple ways our clients quantify their ROI including:

  • Claiming and managing various business social sites will help them rank highly in organic search and reduce the amount needed for Google pay-per-click (PPC). Often our clients immediately see a way to reduce their PPC budgets by thousands of dollars each month.
  • Social advertising is highly targeted, much less expensive than traditional advertising, and delivers measurable ROI as the ads are reaching a defined audience interested in your products and services. It is incredibly cost effective and allows businesses an opportunity to showcase a lot more regarding content and images/video than they can do through PPC, etc. The ROI is easy to quantify when you do the right kind of targeted campaigns and direct the clicks to a page that captures information and leads.
  • Social media is also the voice for your business and is a great way to showcase your products, solutions, and what makes your company unique. People looking on Google will see your ratings from review sites as well as from Facebook. Using Google “reputation tiles” to showcase top reviews and specials has the effect of appearing to be an implied endorsement by Google and can elevate your reputation overall. In fact, reputation can be your best salesperson or your greatest nemesis, depending on how you manage it. All of this can be quantified by tracking traffic from search and all of the various social and review sites using pixels.
  • At Digital Air Strike, we monitor online reputations with our technology and tools such as Mission Control. Businesses can manage their entire online reputation and third-party reviews from a centralized, user-friendly dashboard. By learning about issues when people have them, a business can fix them and turn upset customers into raving fans, which not only increases sales but also helps a business fix issues that may negatively impact future sales.

Are influencers capable of nullifying the pitfalls of fake news? How does your platform rate trustworthy versus unreliable influencers?

Influencers have the trust of their followers, and with new rules on social media, must disclose the relationship between the marketer and themselves — consumers appreciate transparency. If you are working with the proper influencers, their reputation should be strong enough to inspire confidence and conviction. However, the word of an influencer is not enough and not all businesses can afford to work with one. That’s why brands need to have customer reviews that highlight the benefits of engaging with the business.

One of the most exciting aspects of our technology and why we have patents-pending relates to how we handle secure data and ensure that the surveys are only sent to verified consumers that have done business and spent money at the location. We do this by plugging directly into the POS/accounting system of a business through a secure data line. This ensures our content is 100% trustworthy and businesses, as well as the online networks, can add a badge that states the feedback is from a “Verified Customer.”

How does AI fit into your Influencer Marketing stack? What are your major differentiators in the tech-heavy influencer ecosystem?

AI is a key technology for Digital Air Strike. In 2018, we introduced Response Path, a new lead response tool that combines the power of AI with human intelligence to help businesses generate more leads, close sales faster, and improve customer service. It allows customers to create and deploy AI-driven bots across multiple messaging channels easily, including via text message. The bot proactively starts the conversation, qualifies interest, and can route the conversation to the right department, location, or team member when needed. If a team member is not available, the bot can capture the lead’s details and even schedule appointments based on the business’s real-time availability.

The main differentiator with our technology is our bot’s ability to conduct intelligent conversations with a prospect and understand what they are looking for. As opposed to being limited in responses and creating generic messages that frustrate a prospective customer.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?

For years we’ve seen this as a trend and have been using an AI “smart survey” for years that recognizes Gmail addresses and directs customers who responded positively to a survey to post their review on Google only. We understand how AI can really help the industry. Chatbots were growing in popularity, and I saw them gaining traction and improving marketing.

We developed our AI-powered intelligent messaging platform, Response Path, that works with Facebook Messenger, on websites, and via SMS to capture, qualify and route leads automatically for our clients. Marketers who can implement successful strategies with emerging technologies will get ahead of the competition.

Influencers are among the first to adopt new technologies for marketing. What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in video and premium Content Marketing technologies in influencer ecosystem?

Social networks are really replacing tradition television. We have already seen the societal impact that Facebook Live has created. It has been one of the most popular mediums for creating awareness of social issues. I believe that Facebook will figure out how to monetize this for brands in a much bigger way, whether that comes through selling ad space, creating premium paid channels or something else.

Social networks are replacing tradition television. YouTube and YouTube Live are both popular sources for videos, gaming, entertainment and even watching concerts, sports and other live events. Because YouTube is a social network, its reach is amplified as viewers can like and share content easily in on a platform that reaches 1.8 billion people who watch five billion videos every day.

What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?

I’ve always been fascinated by entrepreneurs, so one technology that I think will really help businesses grow is Bevy Labs, which is a community events software platform from the founders of Startup Grind. It helps companies scale community and analytics when they don’t have the necessary workforce.

What Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies do you currently use?

We use Salesforce internally as our CRM. I highlighted the founder in my first book and have enjoyed watching the company grow. I especially appreciate the steps the company has taken to make sure there is equal pay between minorities and women.

Could you tell us about an outstanding digital campaign?

We recently helped GlancePay, a mobile payment app, generate great exposure and brand awareness — including helping the company win an International Business Award for Favorite New Company. The award is based on public votes so we launched a social ads campaign on Facebook that generated 745 post engagements, reached 3,765 users, gained 18,661 impressions — at a cost-per-click of only $0.47.

We also helped a dealership group in Texas get a 12.5x return on its ad spend with a targeted Facebook ad campaign that ultimately helped the dealership sell eight cars — the majority to customers who were new to the dealership. The results were so spectacular Facebook did a case study on our work and featured the results as a “Success Story.”

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

We inspire our employees to work with technology every day by encouraging them to “think like an owner” and also doing “whatever it takes.” Both are values of our company. “Whatever It Takes” is actually a monthly award given to six employees who were nominated by their co-workers or clients for going above and beyond to deliver results. The award includes a trophy, a $250 cash bonus, a prime parking spot, and extra entries into our yearly drawing to join our top sales performers on a “President’s Club” trip to Cabo San Lucas or a cruise through the Bahamas.

We also have an “automation committee” that works across all departments to find ways to streamline our processes using technology.

One word that best describes how you work.

Driven. From excelling in male-dominated fields such as sports, automotive and technology, to starting a company in the midst of a recession, my drive keeps me committed to accomplishing my goals and the pursuit of innovation.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Facebook! Not only is Facebook an essential tool for helping our clients succeed, but I also think that Facebook has done a great job of continually improving the platform’s features and functionality. From Facebook Live to Facebook Marketplace, it has become a one-stop hub for news, sharing, chatting, buying and much more. While there is always room for improvements, I believe that Facebook will continue to lead the way as the largest and most active social media platform for years to come. I also love Facebook Messenger as it helps me stay connected with my family around the world.

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?

The smartest “hack” was to get rid of Slack company-wide. While the tool is meant for quick communication, I found that the majority of our team found it distracting with messages popping up constantly, many that weren’t work-related. They were jokes or memes. We are all working to have more in-person conversations that result in less back and forth. We are also implementing Microsoft teams which encourages online collaboration.

What are you currently reading? 

I am currently reading the third book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, with my son, Griffin. It’s our nightly routine and a great way to relax after the end of the day. I’m also reading a book called In the Company of Women, which is a collection of articles about female entrepreneurs. I’ve always been an avid reader and fascinated by entrepreneurs. I even wrote a book about entrepreneurs called, Balls! 6 Rules for Winning Today’s Business Game.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Change is the one constant. You have to be open and willing to change to evolve, grown, and learn. That’s why social media is an excellent fit for me and why I started the company —  it’s always changing. When you’re open to change, it’s amazing what you can accomplish.

Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?

Digital Air Strike is successful because we think like consumers — what’s the end result and how do we benefit them. I also don’t believe in “ordering off the menu” and instead look for creative approaches to solving a problem, resolving an issue, or getting what’s best for our company.

Tag the one person (or more) in the industry whose answers to these questions you would like to read:

Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook

Thank you, Alexi! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Alexi Venneri co-founded Digital Air Strike, the award-winning digital response and social media technology company that works with thousands of dealerships, six of the top ten OEMs and 27 of the top 30 dealer groups. Prior positions include President of Auto Media/Blue Flame 6 (part of The Van Tuyl Automotive Group), VP of Marketing, PR & Investor Relations at DealerTrack (TRAK), CMO at Who’s Calling and Director of Marketing for the Major League Baseball team the Seattle Mariners. Alexi is an accomplished public speaker and author of the best-selling book Balls! Six Rules for Winning the Business Game.

Alexi has a B.A. in Marketing from the University of Calgary and she is an accredited trainer at the University of Washington as well as The Pacific Institute. She supports numerous charitable organizations and works closely with ARME and the Beagle Freedom Project, nonprofit organizations that rescue and rehabilitate animals.

Digital Air Strike Logo

Digital Air Strike is the leading social media, intelligent messaging, and digital engagement company that helps businesses increase consumer response and conversions in digital and social media environments while generating measurable ROI.

A pioneer in digital response, social media marketing and online reputation management solutions, Digital Air Strike deploys industry-specific mobile apps, software, intelligent messaging and managed service platforms to monitor, engage, improve and manage consumer interactions for thousands of businesses in the United States and Canada including seven of the largest automotive manufacturers.

A pioneer in digital response, social media marketing and online reputation management solutions, Digital Air Strike deploys industry-specific mobile apps, software, intelligent messaging and managed service platforms to monitor, engage, improve and manage consumer interactions for thousands of businesses in the United States and Canada including seven of the largest automotive manufacturers.

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The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.